Born of Water and the Spirit
“… as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death… we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3–4, NKJV).
One evening while He was in Jerusalem, Jesus had a visit from a member of the religious elite named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was well-placed: educated, wealthy, respected, influential; and he was intrigued by this Jesus of Nazareth. So, he came to Jesus and addressed him with respect: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one could do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus’ reply appears abrupt, even harsh: “I tell you the solemn truth, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Stumbling a bit, Nicodemus asks, “Born again? How can a man be born when he is old? How’s that supposed to work?” Jesus answered,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5–8, NKJV)
For a teacher of Israel, the mention of “water” and “Spirit” should have evoked the imagery of creation, redemption, and transformation. When Jesus talked about being born again—being made a new creation—He was announcing the present reality of what the Law and Prophets foretold: the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. Just like every other creative and redemptive act of God, entrance into the Kingdom involves water and Spirit (Gen 1:1–2; Exod 14:21; Ezek 36:25–27). Jesus announced it to Nicodemus, and then proclaimed it throughout His public ministry (John 7:37–39): the Kingdom of God was available to those who would be born again of the water and of the Spirit. God’s greatest creative and redemptive work is realized through a “New Birth” that forever changes and transforms a life.
This “New Birth” became possible because of Calvary, and was experienced first on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:2–39). New Birth of water and Spirit became the normative experience of the New Testament church (Acts 2:37–39; 8:12–13, 26–40; 10:44–48; 16:14–15, 25–34; 19:1–7). The first Christians spread this Good News and the world was turned upside down (Acts 17:6) as people everywhere experienced new creation, redemption, and transformation through the water and the Spirit. They still do!
People are constantly being baptized in Jesus’ name and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit at North Cities. This year alone, over 140 people have experienced God’s work of salvation, washing, regeneration, renewing, redemption and transformation. It really is a New Birth. The Gospel doesn’t just reform the old person; it makes us a brand new creation. God doesn’t just patch-up what is hopelessly broken—He creates brand new life!